Slowing Down

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It’s time to take a page out of Zippy’s book and slow down for the summer.

A few weeks ago I found Zippy trying to cross a busy street, perhaps in search of a prehistoric mating site that is presently an apartment complex. With no idea what to do with such a creature, I installed him (her?) in the back yard and placed landscape rocks to block gaps in the bottom of the fence. Zippy has been wandering around there ever since, eating worms, grubs, and slices of organic roasted turkey, and taking daily baths in a blue and white soup plate.

I probably shouldn’t use the Zipster as a model of slowing down, as ze is remarkably quick. I’m working on a theory that eating makes turtles invisible for a time, since I can give this little creature a hunk of turkey, watch them take a few triangle-shaped bites, and head back to the kitchen ten feet away. By the time I walk in, close the door, and turn around to check, Zippy can have disappeared completely. In-depth searches of the tiny back yard – sometimes carried out by several people at a time – will yield no sign of a turtle.

Then, boom! There’s the dude (dudette?) right by the back door, staring up at me. I don’t know a thing about turtles, but Zippy shows no omnivorous inclinations what.so.ever. No lettuce, no strawberries, no grapes, no blueberries, no apple. Turkey.

Travis and I are just in from a walk. There was a storm this morning, a huge horizontal cell that – fortunately for us – split in two as it hit the hill country, leaving the area south of us all reds and oranges on the weather radar, like flames, and the area north of us bright yellow. We were in the green: plenty of rain, thunder and lightning well off in the distance.

It was a good enough time to clean the kitchen and wait for shards of blue to show themselves on the horizon. Out we went.

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The sunny stretches were warm, the shade still cool; so as we walked along past the Regents School we dipped down onto the gravel path despite the fact that I was in flip-flops and would be collecting stones the whole way. We wanted the cool shade, and the water music of the rushing creek alongside us.

It’s time for slowing down. We’re approaching that segment of the year in Central Texas when people start to disappear at certain hours of the day as well as turtles. Rigorous exercise and dog-walking begin to happen¬†in earlier morning and later evening hours, and at three p.m. travis and I can have the streets pretty much to ourselves. Not that it’s been really hot yet; it hasn’t. In fact it’s been so mild I predict right here and now that we’ll still be suffering in late October.

We just know we’re getting there.

Meanwhile the wet weather hangs on, with predictable results in the world of vegetation. Out in the herb garden I put in zucchini and gourd seeds, and the plants are becoming suitably decorative.

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I don’t really expect any zucchini, though we do have one teeny tiny golf-ball-sized gourd (!)

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But the flowers are lovely and the little tendrils amuse me. Some zucchini would be handy since I’ve been using it as a pasta and pizza-crust substitute for months now, but as you well know my history in food growing is not to be mentioned.

I’m happy to report that the world still smells like flowers, and no wonder: the ‘hood is replete with great huge bushes and trees laden with pungent clusters.

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And it remains difficult to get a walk in without a dozen stops to photograph what’s popping up in neighbors’ yards. I have no idea what most of these flowers are, but that doesn’t make a whit of difference. I just refer to them as “beautiful” and “amazing.”

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Can you imagine this spiky red thing? Roughly the size of golf balls, to continue the reference for scale; I don’t know if these are the flowers or the seed pods. I must try to catch that gardener in her yard (she has a fabulous sidewalk garden on her corner lot) and find out its name.

Closer to home I have a terra-cotta bowl planted with Blue Daze and a white lantana, affixed to a magnolia stump that keeps creating a crown of magnolia leaves for said bowl. Right outside the gate to the sidewalk garden, I don’t know if there’ll be enough sun for flowers. But there are a few Blue Daze blossoms right now, and they are very pretty.

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We have coneflowers here and there about the yard. There are two new ones in the patch by the driveway where the Texas mountain laurel lives. This is another spot that spends so much time in shade, thanks to our enormous live oak, that the Pride of Barbados and the sago palm get just barely enough light to thrive. The coneflowers start out quite pale, their pinks deepening as the days go by.

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I can sit on the bench Floyd made for me under that vast canopy of live oak, catch every breeze the corner spot has to offer, and keep an eye on that particular patch of color. At the moment there are salvia, spiky purple sage, pink rock roses, brilliant yellow-orange day lilies, and these coneflowers.

It’s a good place to sip a slightly bubbly cold drink, read Ngaio Marsh, and be glad I don’t need to hurry anywhere at all anytime soon.

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